Unfortunately, we have to start today’s news column with a number of sad and tragic deaths. The investigation is still ongoing in regards to the death of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the indie Western, Rust, over the weekend, which Mark London Williams should be covering in his “Strike Alert” column tomorrow, so we don’t have much to add there.
On the other hand, as we went to “press” with Friday’s “Over the Weekend,” it was announced that actor Peter Scolari, the Emmy-winning star of the popular sitcoms Bosom Buddies and Newhart, died at the age of 66, after a tw0-year battle with cancer. It was announced by Ellen Lubin Sanitsky at Wright Entertainment. Scolari won his Emmy (after being nominated for Newhart) for playing Lena Dunham‘s father on her HBO series, Girls. Scolari was also a prolific stage actor, appearing in Hairspray, Wicked, Sly Fox, and others. Scolari first appeared with a young Tom Hanks in the series Bosom Buddies, but they reunited a few times after that, in Robert Zemeckis‘ The Polar Express, and at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theater in 2013’s Lucky Guy, written by Nora Ephron. Scolari is survived by his wife, Tracy Shayne, and children Nicholas, Joseph, Keaton and Cali.
Dunham paid tribute to her on-screen father on Instagram:
No, it was not a good weekend for sitcom stars, and even as we were mourning the death of Scolari, it was reported that actor James Michael Tyler, best known as playing Central Perk barista Gunther on NBC‘s hit sitcom, Friends, had died at the age of 59. He died peacefully at his home in L.A. after a battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer, of which he was diagnosed in 2018. He talked about his struggle with “late-stage cancer” on Today this past June, saying that it had spread to his bones and spine causing lower body paralysis. “So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me,” the actor told Craig Melvin. “All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom — life was pretty much normal,” but the cancer mutated right as the pandemic hit. Tyler also appeared on the recent HBO Max Friends Reunion Special, as his character Gunther was beloved among the show’s multitude of fans.
Going back a little further in time towards an earlier television age, Joanna Cameron, star of the popular ’70s Saturday morning show, The Secrets of Isis, also died over the weekend in Hawaii at 70 due to complications from a stroke. It was reported over the weekend by Joanna Pang Atkins, Cameron’s co-star on the CBS show that ran from 1975 to 1976. (Cameron’s Isis would frequently appear on the ’70s Captain Marvel show, Shazam!, based on the popular Fawcett and DC Comics superhero, and the character was eventually brought into the comics, as well.)
Sad to post that JoAnna Cameron "The Mighty Isis" has flown to heaven. She suffered a stroke and passed away from complications this past Friday. We shared the wonderful lasting experience of making "The Secrets of Isis". May she RIP. photo with BrianCutler pic.twitter.com/AF5rEo79Bm
— Joanna Pang Atkins (@JPangAtkins) October 24, 2021
Lastly, at least as far as weekend deaths go, The People’s Court creator Stu Billett died at the age of 85 in L.A. on Oct. 22 from natural causes. Billett launched the groundbreaking courtroom show, starring Judge Joseph Wapner, with his producing partner Ralph Edwards back in 1981, and the show was a pioneer for dozens of courtroom reality shows that would be launched in the four decades since.
Let’s shift into some casting and production news before we get too bummed out, including the report from Deadline that Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling is in talks to play Ken, Barbie’s paramour, in the Warner Bros., Lucky Chap Entertainment, and Mattel‘s movie, Barbie, starring Margot Robbie as the popular girls’ action figure. Although Gosling has been busy with a number of roles, including recently wrapping on the Russo Brothers‘ The Gray Man with Chris Evans, he finally had an opening in his schedule as pre-production continued, and Gosling’s attachment may help the film begin production in early 2022. The movie was co-written by Lady Bird filmmaker Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach and will be directed by Gerwig with Robbie producing via her Lucky Chap banner along with Lucky Chap’s Tom Ackerley, Mattel’s Robbie Brenner and David Heyman with Josey McNamara from Lucky Chap and Ynon Kreiz from Mattel as exec. producers.
The virtual American Film Market (AFM) doesn’t start until next week, but two more action movies featuring two of 2021’s action stars was announced, as part-time professional wrestler, John Cena, is in talks to star in Freelance, an action-comedy from Taken Director Pierre Morel. AGC‘s Stuart Ford will be selling this package produced by Endurance Media’s Steve Richards with Sentient Entertainment’s Renee Tab and Christopher Tuffin at AFM with Endurance co-financing with AGC. UTA and ICM are handling domestic sales of the $40 million project which will have Cena playing a special forces operator, “who decides to retire from the Army and start a family back in the States. After several years of mortgage payments, school drop-offs, backyard barbecues and trying to conform to life in suburbia, he decides to come out of retirement to take a gig providing security for a female journalist as she interviews a cruel dictator who may or may not have ordered the attack on him and his men. When a military coup breaks out in the middle of the interview, the three are forced to escape into the jungle where they must survive the elements, the military and one another.” Production is set to start in early 2022, filming in Colombia, from a screenplay by Jacob Lentz, making his feature writing debut.
WME Independent has launched sales on a Western called The Last Manhunt, starring Jason Momoa (currently in Dune), which is about the legend of Willie Boy and his love Carlota, who go on the run after he accidentally shoots her father in a confrontation gone terribly wrong, telling “the true story of the last great American manhunt of the old west.” Set in 1909, it’s based on the oral history of the Chemehuevi tribe in Joshua Tree, California with Momoa co-writing and exec. producing as well as being among the largely Native American ensemble cast. Actor-filmmaker Christian Camargo (See) is directing the movie and playing Sheriff Frank Wilson, the role previously played by Robert Redford in the 1969 film, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here. The Native American cast includes Martin Sensmeier (The Magnificent Seven) as Willie Boy; Mainei Kinimaka (See) as Carlota; Zahn McClarnon (Reservation Dogs) as Carlota’s father; Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) as Carlota’s mother; Raoul Trujillo (Apocalypto); Brandon Oakes (Togo) and Tantoo Cardinal (Dances with Wolves), and other actors include Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises), Jamie Sives (Chernobyl), Justin Campbell (The Hurt Locker), Mojean Aria (Reminiscence), Charlie Brumbly (Baywatch), and Amy Seimetz (Pet Sematary).
Deadline got its hands on a few first look images of Momoa in costume, the film’s stars Sensmeier and Kinimaka as Willie Boy and Carlota, and the cast playing the posse, and you can read a lot more about the project over at Deadline.
Currently filming in Hertfordshire in the UK is the folk horror film, Lord of Misrule, from The Boy Director William Brent Bell, and actors Tuppence Middleton and Ralph Ineson are starring in it, along with Matt Stokoe (Outlaw King). Based on a screenplay by The Quiet Ones‘ Tom de Ville, the film is set in a rural English village, and it follows Rebecca Holland (Middleton), who has recently taken over the parish church. The tagline continues: “When her young daughter goes missing at a winter festival, villagers and local police join in the desperate search. However, the closer they edge towards finding the girl, the more secrets emerge from the town’s dark past; soon Rebecca must decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice to rescue her daughter from the grip of evil.” Bankside will be handling sales for the film, a REP Productions and Riverstone Pictures production with Bigscope Films and The Machine Room, at AFM.
Fresh off his prominent role in the Marvel Studios series, Loki, and his starring role in the Netflix Western, The Harder They Fall (currently in select theaters), actor Jonathan Majors is starring in filmmaker Elijah Bynum‘s bodybuilding drama, Magazine Dreams, produced by Nightcrawler producers Jennifer Fox and Dan Gilroy. Powers is also serving as exec. producer for the film based on a script that appeared on the 2020 Black List, which follows an amateur bodybuilder who struggles to find human connection in the exploration of celebrity and violence. Los Angeles Media Fund will fully finance, with Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman also producing. CAA Media Finance arranged financing and will handle the domestic sale.
From THR comes the news that New Line has picked up the original horror script Thaw from San Andreas writer Jeremy Passmore. Gunpowder & Sky is producing with Adam Goldworm of Aperture Entertainment, although all that’s known is that it’s being described as “an environmental horror thriller.”
Actor Adria Arjona, who appears in next year’s Morbius, will star in and exec. produce the indie film, Los Frikisi, written, directed and produced by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. New Slate is financing the film that will be produced with Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Rebecca Tomlinson for Lord Miller.
Although Netflix’s popular The Last Kingdom series will be wrapping up with next year’s fifth and final season, the film’s star Alexander Dreymon announced at the MCM Comic-Con in London that his character Uhtred will return in Carnival Films‘ Seven Kings Must Die, a related feature film that Dreymon will EP. Filming will begin on the feature in Budapest early next year, following the streamer dropping the final season. Producer Nigel Marchant said that “there was always one more story that we wanted to tell,” to which Dreymon added, “It’s been such a privilege to tell Uhtred’s story for five seasons. I’m so grateful to our fans. They have been immensely loyal to The Last Kingdom and thanks to their support, the team is getting together for another round.” Ed Bazalgette will direct the feature, which will be produced by Marchant with Gareth Neame and Mat Chaplin from a screenplay by Martha Hillier, also an EP.
Just a reminder that if you’re looking for work and any of the projects above interest you, subscribing to our Production Listings is the best way to know in advance when these projects are assembling crew.
There wasn’t a ton of television news or announcements over the weekend other than The Hollywood Reporter‘s exclusive that Hayden Christensen would be reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars prequels in Lucasfilm and Disney+‘s live action series, Ahsoka. The series stars Rosario Dawson as the popular Jedi character Ahsoka Tano, who was originally introduced in the animated Clone Wars cartoons and then made her live-action debut in the second season of The Mandalorian.
NBC has given a pilot order to the George and Mayan Lopez family comedy, Lopez vs. Lopez, with The Conners‘ showrunner Bruce Helford and co-EP Debby Wolfe writing as well as exec. producing with Helford, who co-created George Lopez’s previous ABC sitcom, supervising. George Lopez is also an exec. producer for the pilot along with 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg and Katie Newman, while Mayan Lopez is a producer. Helford’s Mohawk Productions is producing with Travieso Productions, Mi Vida Loba and 3 Arts, and Universal Television is the studio.
Let’s get into some box office, because this past weekend saw the release of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Denis Villeneuve‘s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, and more, by Warner Bros. Pictures. WB released Dune into 4,125 theaters and after making $5.1 million in Thursday previews, it took in $17.5 million on Friday (including those previews). The sci-fi epic continued to do decent business over the weekend to end up with an estimated $40.1 million, which is the highest opening for a Warner Bros. movie that’s been released day-and-date on HBO Max, the norm for the studio’s theatrical releases this year.
Dune continues to do huge box office overseas with China pulling in $101M RMB (about $15.8 million US) in its first two days, bringing the movie’s international total to $150 million and the movie’s global cume to be at $200 million through Sunday. The movie did well with audiences with an “A-” CinemaScore, and there was a lot of demand over the weekend for the second part of Villeneuve’s epic to be greenlit since Part 1 ends on a cliffhanger.
Universal Pictures‘ Halloween Kills, which was also playing on streamer Peacock, took a massive 70% plunge in its second weekend to take second place with $14.5 million and $73.1 million grossed in ten days.
Daniel Craig‘s James Bond 007 took third place with No Time to Die, which dropped 50% to add $11.9 million to its domestic take of $120 million.
Sony Pictures‘ Venom: Let There Be Carnage continues to be one of the year’s biggest hits with $182 million grossed domestically with $9.1 million this past weekend.
20th Century released the animated Ron’s Gone Wrong into 3,560 theaters, but it was the second bomb in a row for the Disney-based studio after Ridley Scott‘s The Last Duel. Ron’s opened with just $7.3 million in fifth place and roughly $2,050 per theater, making it the second film from 20th Century that was released only in theaters with no streaming or VOD component but still wasn’t enough to attract moviegoers.
20th Century subsidiary Searchlight Studios did far better with Wes Anderson‘s latest film, The French Dispatch, also starring Chalamet but with a widely divergent ensemble cast from Dune, including Anderson regulars, Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Tilda Swinton, as well as Benicio del Toro, Jeffrey Wright, and many others. The anthology comedy broke into the top 10 at #9 while playing in just 52 theaters across the country, pulling in a whopping $25,000 per theater, which is the highest per-theater-average of the year. Searchlight will expand The French Dispatch nationwide this coming Friday where it should continue to bring in Anderson’s faithful fanbase.
That’s it for now. Back on Wednesday with our weekly Hump Day News Update.